Close your eyes and get an image of both your most and your least
effective supervisor, whether in the
context of service delivery or research.
What comes to mind? While both types
of experiences can be transformative,
they are very different.
My positive supervisory relationships
were associated with an enhanced sense
of well-being, greater confidence in my work and increased
competence; better outcomes of the work being supervised
and a greater depth of connection with my supervisor. These
powerful supervisory relationships were characterized by care
and compassion, gentleness and patience, an appreciation of my
strengths and a willingness to challenge me.
The problematic supervisory relationships I experienced
often were hurtful to me. They made me feel insecure about
myself and my work, made it more of a struggle to deliver
quality services and scholarly products, and led me to
experience the relationship as uncomfortable and not safe.
Many of us learned to supervise by following the lead of
our positive supervisory role models and avoiding the attitudes
and behaviors we found unhelpful in other supervisors. While
role modeling is valuable, it is an insufficient way to develop
supervisory competence. That requires extensive reading of the
pertinent literature, formal preparation that has both didactic
and experiential components, and the opportunity to obtain
ongoing feedback from others, including our supervisees.
The time has come for psychologists to transform
supervision from a practice driven by osmosis to a distinct
professional competency. To respond to this need, a task force
convened this year by APA’s Board of Educational Affairs crafted
supervisory guidelines for one type of psychological practice:
health-service psychology. The competency-based Guidelines
for Clinical Supervision in Health Service Psychology, endorsed
by the APA Council of Representatives in August, offer an
invaluable resource regarding optimal performance. These
developmentally informed, strength-based guidelines focus
on three goals: ensuring that supervisees acquire the requisite
competence and professional development, prioritizing the
delivery of quality care to the client/patient and protecting the
public. The guidelines are organized around seven domains:
• Supervisor competence. Being competent in the practice
of supervision, the services that one’s supervisees are providing
and the use of technology.
• Diversity. This includes infusing diversity into all aspects of
supervision and professional practice; attending to the diversity
characteristics of both parties; pursuing ongoing training to
enhance diversity competence; and addressing the effects of
bias, prejudice and stereotyping.
• Supervisory relationship. Forging respectful, collaborative
relationships with supervisees; delineating roles, expectations
and rights of both parties; and engaging in mutual review of the
supervisee’s progress and the supervisory relationship.
• Professionalism. Modeling professionalism; educating
supervisees about knowledge, skills and attitudes associated
with professionalism; and offering feedback about
supervisees’ attainment of developmentally expected levels of
• Assessment/evaluation/feedback. Monitoring and
providing input on supervisee performance; providing candid,
timely feedback; being attuned to supervisees’ responses to
input and its impact on the supervisory dyad; incorporating
into the evaluation the supervisee’s self-assessment; and using
input from supervisees to enhance one’s own competence.
• Professional competence problems. Addressing problems
of professional competence in one’s supervisees directly;
attending to these problems in a timely fashion to offer time to
effect change; developing and implementing plans to remediate
problems; and serving as gatekeepers when necessary.
• Ethics, legal and regulatory considerations. Modeling
ethical practice and decision making; upholding one’s primary
ethical and legal responsibility to protect public welfare; and
documenting appropriately supervisee performance.
Although these guidelines focus on health-service psychology,
their tenets are informative for all endeavors that require
supervision. For those of you being supervised, remember you
have the responsibility to be a fully engaged participant in the
supervisory process and the right to have effective supervisors
who are dedicated to advancing your growth in a respectful and
supportive way. We can all help ensure that the two-way street of
competent supervision is associated with psychologists’ optimal
growth and development. n
For more on the guidelines, see the article on page 42. To read the
guidelines, go to www.apa.org/ed/resources/index.aspx.
Becoming a better supervisor
BY NADINE J. KASLOW, PHD • APA PRESIDENT